To be honest, I'm still not sure what to write, or how to express what I feel. For those that are not aware, my dad died in a motorcycle accident last week, coming home from counseling meetings as Branch President of a Young Single Adult Branch of the church. Below are the short remarks I shared at his memorial service on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. This will have to do for now.
Eric’s remarks at Dad’s memorial service – 11.10.09
I have five minutes. I can’t do my memories or feelings justice, but I hope to give you a taste how my dad has rubbed off on me.
I love my dad. He always took an opportunity to teach a life lesson. I’d like to share a couple of my life-lesson memories with you now.
Even as I observe all the love and admiration the masses have for my dad, and waxing nostalgic on the things he taught us, the way he led us, and the wise example he gave us, nobody would disagree that it was in fact my dad who was lucky to have my mom, more so than the other way around. My dad would be the first to say it.
My dad was at least as blessed to have my mom in her life as we were to have him in ours. One of the most important lessons he taught me was that I should strive to convince a woman of my mom’s caliber to be my wife. I know my brothers agree and took that challenge to heart. Daniel, Jonathan and I are lucky men…and we’re all looking forward to meeting the girl my little brother Ian will someday be lucky enough to marry.
My dad was hugely instrumental in nurturing my great love of the outdoors. We took many backpacking, camping and paddling trips in every season. They have become some of my favorite moments in life, and one of my last wishes before I left on my mission at 19 years old was to go on one last backpacking trip with my dad. He obliged and we had a wonderful time hiking into a beautiful lake high in the Sierras less than a month before I left for the Missionary Training Center. Earlier in my teenage years, my dad and I climbed Mt. Shasta in California twice. On our first trip, we camped way above the tree-line, waking up before dawn in our attempt to reach the 14,162 ft. summit. As we stood there in our crampons and headlamps, ice axes in hand, staring up at the steep dark glacier looming above us, he said “It’s die time.” I enjoyed pulling out that phrase on future adventures, and always thought of my dad when I did.
This was Labor Day weekend and the summer sun had left huge sun pockets in the glacier, making the climb difficult. Essentially, we had to climb up boulder after boulder of ice. At a certain point, I was tired and uncomfortable, thinking the altitude may be getting to me and I began complaining to my dad, suggesting I may need to turn around. We stopped for a rest and I remember his words to me very clearly. He looked me in the eyes and said very seriously: “You don’t understand what you’re capable of.”
We continued on much further than I would have had I been left to my own immature impulses. Eventually, a thick fog rolled in near the summit and we were turned around by a ranger as the whiteout made it too dangerous to climb higher. As we made our way back down, I was glad that the weather and ranger turned us around high up on the mountain, and not my lack of ambition. That trip changed my style of hiking and climbing for the rest of my life and taught me a valuable lesson that I try to apply to every aspect of life: Do I really understand what I’m capable of? Am I selling myself short?
This last Sunday, President Coltrin remarked to the Susquehanna Branch how President Forsyth had a remarkable gift for always seeing our potential, much more than our shortcomings. How true that is. Even when he was a little tough on us, that toughness was rooted in his vision of our potential, not his frustration of our weaknesses.
In closing I’ll share an experience I had just last week. I first got the news of my dad’s passing early on Thursday morning. I immediately booked a flight out to Philly to be with my family. Sitting in the terminal in Denver, waiting for my flight, I thought of my dad and read comments on the internet of those that were also grieving his passing. I began to sob and shed the first public tears since hearing the news. But my thoughts were on my dad and it didn’t take long for my tears to be interrupted by my own laughter. There I was, wiping my tear soaked face with my sleeve. Dad would certainly have used this as another opportunity to hand me his handkerchief and remind me how practical it is to always carry one in my pocket. It felt like he was beside me in the airport, reminding me, but also comforting me and I smiled through my tears. I was grateful for the chance to laugh at myself and remember him fondly, even in the small things.
Even if I do a lousy job of applying his handkerchief advice, in the last six or so years I have come to notice how much my dad has rubbed off on me. If anything good can come of his departure, I hope we will better apply the caring example he has set and make sure we aren’t selling ourselves short. He would want us to recognize our full potential. (Romans 8:16-18)
Life with him is so much richer than it will be without him, but I am so grateful for the knowledge I have that our family is eternal. I look forward to those eternities.